9 Helpful Standardized Testing Tips

Student studying and learning how to take a test

Flickr user Paul Townsend

Standardized tests are designed to be tricky. Colleges will expect you to rise to the challenge of the ACT and SAT. Studying is important, but so is understanding the format of the tests. With the ACT/SAT, you may have to relearn how to take a test, since they’re quite different than a typical school exam.

Use these 9 time-tested standardized testing tips to impress colleges with your outstanding scores.

Read through the full question carefully

Yes, time is a luxury in a standardized test but there are some things you just cannot afford to rush through. One of them is skimming through the questions. Reading through the full question slowly and carefully may take up a few precious seconds but that is time well spent. At least some of the answer choices will be designed to confuse you. If you do not read the question and understand what is being asked, you are more likely to misunderstand the question and choose the wrong answer.

Answer the Easiest Questions First

Answering the easiest questions first helps in more ways than one. For one thing, it helps you move through the test faster. If you waste time on a difficult question, you run the risk of running out of time and losing marks on questions you knew the answers to.

Moving through the test quickly while answering those easy questions will also help boost your confidence and calm your fears. Test takers tend to perform much better when they feel more confident and less anxious.

Answering the easier questions first could also jog your memory, making it easier to go back and answer those questions you skipped earlier. This can be particularly helpful when answering questions on related topics.

Answer the Question BEFORE Reading the Answers Provided

Can you guess the answer to the question without looking at the answers provided? If you can, it’s a pretty good bet that you are right. Now take a look at the choices. If one of the choices is the answer you guessed or similar to what you guessed, you know you’re right. Mark it on your test paper and move on to the next question.

Eliminate the Obviously Wrong Choices

When looking at the answer choices provided, eliminate those that you know are definitely not the right answer. This can helps narrow down the options so it is less confusing. Instead of having to choose from 4 or 5 answer choices, you now have to choose from just 2 or 3.  This can be particularly helpful when you are having trouble arriving at the correct answer.  In addition to making it less confusing, eliminating the wrong choices also increases your odds of getting the answer right, even if you are relying purely on guesswork.

Consider ALL The Answer Choices Before Marking Your Final Answer

We said it before, the questions and answers provided are designed to trick you. Even if you know the answer to the question, don’t rush to mark it on the test paper. First, take a look at the answer choices. Is one of the choices ‘All of the above’? If it is, you must first make there that there isn’t more than one correct answer to the question.

Go through the answer choices again. Can you identify at least 2 correct answers to the question? If you do, ‘All of the above’ is most likely the correct option.

Read Those Passage Introductions

Most passages will have a little introductory passage in italics. It can be tempting to ignore the passage introduction in an attempt to save some time. This is a mistake and one that could cost you even more time in the end. These introductory passages are meant to give you a better understanding of the context of the passage that follows. Without reading the introduction, you may find it difficult to answer the question asked. On the other hand, you may arrive at a wrong understanding and answer the question incorrectly. Either ways, skipping the passage introduction could cost you.

Highlight Key Points in Long Questions & Passages

Does a question or passage appear too long with multiple ideas or subsections integrated into it? Overly long questions and passages can be challenging to understand and difficult to answer. One way to simplify it is to mark key points as you come across them. With the key points highlighted, you won’t have to waste time reading the whole question again to locate the answers.

Pace Yourself

Yes, all standardized tests are timed tests and your instinct may be to answer all questions as quickly as possible to lower the risk of running out of time. This could actually be counter-productive. The more you rush through the test, the more likely you are to make careless mistakes or leave out answers. Also, it will leave you feeling more stressed, which almost always affects the way you perform in the test.

The key is doing well in the test is to pace yourself. How do know how much time you have? This is something you have to figure out while preparing for the test. Answering a couple of timed practice tests will give you a pretty good idea of how much time you have to answer all questions so you can pace yourself accordingly.

Have Time Left Over? Review Your Answers

Use any extra time to review your test. While reviewing your test paper, don’t just review your answers. In addition to cross-checking your answers, make sure that you’ve written all answers in the right locations and keep an eye out for any careless mistakes or anything you may have overlooked. Sometimes those little mistakes cause you to lose marks that could eventually pull your score down.

Relearn How to Take a Test

These helpful strategies can give you an edge on a standardized test like the ACT or SAT. You’ll want to use every tool in your belt in order to get a higher score. Higher scores not only increase your acceptance odds but can qualify you for scholarships as well!

Check out how your ACT/SAT scores affect your acceptance odds with College Raptor!

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